GCCA reveals 7 ways to reach concrete ‘Net Zero’

By Dan Colombini18 October 2021

The world’s leading cement and concrete manufacturers have made a global commit to cut CO2 emissions by a further 25% by 2030, marking a decisive step in the race to ‘Net Zero’ concrete by 2050.

We reveal the 7 steps that the GCCA has proposed to reach this goal...

The GCCA has set out its roadmap to achieve Net Zero concrete by 2050.

The GCCA - which provides a column for International Construction magazine - has published a detailed roadmap which sets out the path that the industry will follow to fully decarbonise by 2050, a target aligned with the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

1. Increased clinker substitution:

The industry will continue to substitute clinker, the main constituent of Portland cement, with supplementary materials such as fly ash (a by-product of the power sector), ground granulated blast-furnace slag (a by-product of th+e steel manufacturing process), calcined clays, unburnt and ground limestone or recycled concrete fines.

Most of these materials have been used in the sector for a long time, already having contributed to lowering the CO2 footprint of both, cement and concrete – for example in the UK market there is 26% clinker substitution. The roadmap sets out a commitment to further increase clinker substitution and the GCCA will share best practice models from around the world to accelerate its use.

2. Fossil fuel reductions and increased use of alternative fuels:

Building on its track record of establishing an almost tenfold increase in the use of alternative fuels since 1990, the industry will reduce fossil-fuel use at every point in supply and production chains, as well as repurposing society’s waste as a smart and greener alternative to fossil fuels. To reduce dependance on conventional fuels, GCCA expects alternative fuels to cover 22% of global cement kiln energy usage by 2030.

3. Investment in technology and innovation:

GCCA will spearhead innovation through its flagship global research network, Innovandi – research topics include concrete chemistries and kiln technologies. This includes 75 partners in Innovandi and a global innovation challenge matching startups with GCCA member companies to accelerate deployment of promising technologies.

4. Novel chemistries (alternatives to Portland cement clinker) and components in cement and concrete manufacturing:

Innovative cements including both new clinker substitutes and new types of clinker and new concrete mix designs play an important role in the roadmap – with numerous promising approaches already in research or development phase.

5. Infrastructure development for Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS):

GCCA members will build on findings from their existing CCUS pilots in North America, India, China and Europe. The industry has committed to 10 industrial scale carbon capture plants by 2030.

6. Improved efficiency in the design and use of concrete during construction:

GCCA will intensify collaboration with the construction industry, design professionals and policymakers to develop the design and procurement framework that will drive efficient use of resources and products, use of reprocessed and recycled material, re-use of elements, and extend the lifetime of whole projects.

7. Establishing a policy framework to achieve net zero concrete:

To deliver net zero concrete by 2050, the global concrete and cement industry is asking for support from policymakers to: Create a consistent and appropriate global system of carbon pricing to create a level playing field on carbon costs, avoid carbon leakage and ensure a managed transition to a net zero economy.

It is important to support low-carbon production technologies, such as carbon capture utilisation and storage, by integrating them in public financing mechanisms and providing fair recognition of all carbon capture technologies, create market demand for low carbon products in construction regulations and public procurement and develop the infrastructure and policies necessary for the development of green energy and waste directives that promote a circular economy. 

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